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GOD'S MIRACLES IN LIVES OF REGULAR PEOPLEHOME-COMING
By Angelic Tarasio
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Angelic Tarasio
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe train Brest-Lvov arrived at the Lvov railway station at 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, October 1, 1946. The Kurbatovs' long journey was over. The arrival made Maria happier. She did not complain aloud, but it was not easy to sit in a train compartment for five days during her sixth month of pregnancy. They ate a light breakfast in a restaurant, took a taxi, and went home to Blue Creeks.
"Marie, you do not feel well, do you?"
"I am fine, Alex," Maria answered quietly. "I am just a little bit tired of staying in a closed compartment."
She did not mention to him that she regretted her stubbornness and arrival to Creeks during her pregnancy. She probably had to wait another year.
They arrived to her family's place around 2 p.m. The beautiful gates with the family coat of arms were broken and thrown behind the servants' lodge. Both statues from either side of the gates were damaged. The central fountain was destroyed. Yellow leaves were strewn all over the yard and in the fountain water. The leaves made the water in the fountain green and unclear. Maria thought, "It's obvious that nobody has taken care of the mansion in a long time." The door of the house was left wide open. There was a sign near the door, "NKVD - the national committee of internal affairs".
Maria read it twice and a fearful thought entered her mind, "Where is my family? It does not look like they are here. It was the war. God forbid, something bad happened to them. Lord, have mercy!"
Maria entered the vestibule of the house. It was no longer her home; everything looked so different inside. People in military uniforms sat, talked, and smoked in every room. No one paid attention to Maria and her husband. A strange thought appeared in her mind: "Run away, Marie. Take your husband and disappear." Maria looked around and smiled to Alexander. Then she whispered,
"I heard somebody's voice, Alex. It took a long time to arrive here and all of a sudden a voice suggested me to run away and disappear from here."
Alexander did not have a chance to answer. Somebody opened the door of the former living room and noticed them in the vestibule. The officer asked in Russian,
"What do you need?"
"I am looking for my family."
The officer let them in. Alexander introduced himself and Maria, explaining the reason of their arrival. The officer did not introduce himself. He wrote something on a sheet of paper and called in a loud voice for someone to come. The younger officer entered the room and took the paper.
Then the older officer said with an unpleasant smile on his lips,
"We'll arrange everything for you. You'll see your father and siblings soon. I am more than sure about it. Leave your passports, entry documents, and tickets here on the table. I need to call Lvov and arrange the transportation for you to deliver you to your father."
The Kurbatovs sensed sarcasm in his words and his eyes radiated inhuman coldness. After the Kurbatovs left the room, Maria asked the man if she could use the restroom in the house. He said that the restrooms in the house were out of order after the war, and she could use one outside. Maria was surprised, and asked Alexander,
"Why didn't they repair the restrooms in the house? If the pump system or pipes broke during the war, why didn't they fix them?"
Alexander went with her to find the lavatory behind the house. It was made of wooden boards with holes between the boards. There was no electricity inside. It was so dirty and the odor was so strong that there was no way to be in there. Maria felt nauseous and vomited.
"You were right. We should not come here, Alex. I mean, we shouldn't have arrived now when I am pregnant."
When they returned to the house, the man was talking on the phone. They waited until the end of his conversation. The doors were closed, but they heard his sarcastic voice and loud laugh.
"I am afraid, Alex. Let us go somewhere, let us run to my grandpa's lodge."
Alex replied, "Marie, it is already dusk and the lodge is many miles away. The officer promised to arrange everything tonight. We are citizens of France. They cannot do any harm to foreigners."
"Why did he take away our passports?"
"I wish I knew, Marie."
They sensed in every inch of their skin that they were in a dangerous trap. They tried to find a way out, but could not. The major took away their entry documents, tickets, and passports. They could not go anywhere without them.
"Calm down, Marie. Because of the child, you cannot be nervous. You know well that our son does not like it."
Alexander touched her belly, and stroked it gently. He felt the motions of his son inside.
"He is too little to go through all this stress. Try to stay calm, darling."
Maria started to pray, "Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord ..." Her prayer was interrupted by the heavy footsteps that were approaching the door. The door was opened and they were invited with a motion of a hand into the room.
"Everything is arranged for you, Count and Countess Kurbatov. The transportation is coming and you are going back to Lvov. There you'll be happy to meet your father."
"What does he do in Lvov? Does he work in the Lvov hospital?" asked Maria.
There was no clear answer.
"What does he do there? Is he all right?"
The man's face shifted and Maria saw his demonic smile. She was frightened and stepped backwards, thinking:
"Oh, Lord! Is he a demon? A real demon?"
Maria's heart raced; she was about to faint. Maria heard the voice of her guardian angel again,
"Not now, Marie. Be strong."
She turned slowly to her husband and noticed that he was tense. She thought,
"He must notice the face shift as well."
Maria was frightened even more. Then the face of the officer became normal again, and he suggested Maria a glass of cold water. It was just what she needed at that moment. The water was from their well. She remembered that taste. It was the taste of her childhood.
"I was hungry and tired, and whatever I saw was definitely a kind of hallucination."
It seemed to Maria that she found a plausible explanation for his horrible facial shift that she noticed two minutes ago and calmed down.
Lord, have mercy!
Chapter TwoMaria and Alexander waited outside for their transportation to Lvov. While walking around the property she could hardly recognize her former home. Some of the structures were destroyed to the point that they were unusable, particularly the summer kitchen and the house for seasonal workers.
All the statues along the lime tree alley were completely damaged or deeply scratched. Maria saw only fragments of two colorful stone amphorae on the ground around their pedestals. Her father, Dr. Kotyk brought this beauty in the mid-1930s from Greece. The war completely crashed the central part of the Garden fountain with a huge statue of Neptune. All formally white benches around the fountain presented a sorry spectacle as well.
Maria stopped at the entrance of the white, lace-like gazebo in the garden. It used to be one of her favorite places. Alexander asked her,
"Did you like to sit here? What did you like to do in the gazebo? Read?"
Maria did not answer at once. Its roof was destroyed and some pieces of it were on the ground around and inside gazebo. She stepped carefully in and answered,
"I liked to hide here and dream. My younger brothers could not find me. Nobody could. Here, I prayed and dreamed."
It was his Marie, the young lady, who lived in her dreams, when he first met her in Paris.
"What were your dreams about, mon cher?"
She answered immediately,
"At ten or eleven, they were about my Momma and her return home. At sixteen, I dreamed about you, a handsome prince with blue eyes. Alex, it seemed to me that then I saw precisely you in my dreams."
They were returning to the house along the old lime trees. The trees were losing their yellow leaves, and Maria liked the sound of the dry leaves under her feet. It was obvious that no one had cleaned the park in over a year.
Alexander paid attention to an elderly woman in black who was passing by the entrance to the mansion, and stopped near the broken gate. The woman stared fixedly at his wife, who wandered with him along the alley. Alexander asked,
"Who is that woman that looks intently at you, Marie?"
Maria turned to the gates and stood frozen.
"Ganja? Is that you, Ganja?"
She rushed to the old woman and hugged her.
"Pannochka (Miss. - in Ukrainian.) Maria, what are you doing here? Why did you come?" The elderly woman burst into tears.
"I am looking for my father, my brothers, and Jenny. Do you know anything about them? Where are they?"
The woman was sobbing and shaking,
"Please leave, run away. They killed your father. They took your brothers and sister away. I wanted to protect Jenny and they broke my arm, look at how it healed. Run from this place, Pannochka Maria. I can see you are expecting your child to come. Why did you arrive? You cannot help your poor family. You should not come to this horrible place."
Ganja motioned toward the house and added,
"Do not trust them! They have no mercy."
Maria stood still as stone for some time. Then she felt like something cracked inside of her and she started to cry,
"Papa, oh my God, Papa ..."
Alexander tried to calm her down, but it did not work. Maria complained,
"Ganja, they promised to arrange our meeting with Papa."
The poor woman did not know what to do.
"Alex, ask them to return our documents and we'll leave."
Alexander went to the office again. He thought,
"What a situation! I knew that there was some kind of danger in the trip, but I was not at all ready for this."
All the doors in the house were closed. There were voices in the former living room. Alexander knocked on the door. The person-on-duty did not allow interruption of the meeting. He commanded Alexander in a rude way,
"Sit and wait."
Meanwhile, Maria continued talking to Ganja. Alexander returned without passports and entry documents. Maria did not ask about the papers. All of a sudden, she surprised everyone with her request,
"I am so hungry, Ganja. Can you bring my husband and me something to eat? We ate last time in Lvov around 11 o'clock in the morning."
"I am sorry Pannochka Maria, but I have only bread and potatoes. Will you eat it?"
The old woman went away. Maria asked Alexander about the documents. He did not have a chance to answer, because at that moment they noticed two officers coming towards them. Maria stood in front of her husband, thinking that her pregnancy would protect them. The men were arguing about something, and when they came up to the Kurbatovs, they were quiet again.
"Who was the woman that you talked to?" The younger officer asked.
"A nanny of my younger sister Jenny", Maria answered honestly.
"What did the old frog tell you about your family?"
The man sounded rude.
Alexander was the first who answered.
"Not much. My wife is hungry. She asked the woman to bring her something to eat."
"The transportation from Lvov cannot be here before eight o'clock in the morning. We'll put you in one of the rooms of your house, Madam. Your husband will be next door to you."
"Why can we not stay together? My wife is pregnant and she might need my help at night."
"Vassily, can count Kurbatov stay with his wife in one room?"
"I don't think that Madam will feel lonely at night. But if they want to be together, then that is alright."
Maria heard once again the sarcastic tone and leaned towards her husband. She shook with fear. She turned to Alexander and whispered,
"Why do they do this to you and me, Alex? Why do they scare us?"
"We would like to sleep at nanny Ganja's house."
"She will give us something to eat tonight and tomorrow in the morning. It would be better for me to go there and to eat some fresh homemade food."
Both men looked at her with great surprise. At that moment they thought alike,
"This countess is definitely too naïve and cannot or does not want to see the danger in her arrival."
Then the senior officer said firmly,
"You will stay in your house, Madam. We will feel better about you in your own house. No other alternatives."
The two scary men went back to the house, neighing loudly and clapping their hands, as if they were expecting something extremely funny.
"Alex, they are ugly. I am afraid of them."
"I am not fond of them either. The situation is not clear, mon amour."
"Alex, I do not feel safe here. I wish we were back in Germany. I know that those people had killed my father, yet they pretend that they are polite and care about us. Why didn't I listen to you, darling? Why did I put you and our child in danger? Why did the Lord allow me to challenge our life, peace, and happiness?"
Maria burst into tears.
Alexander tried to find the right words to calm her down.
"My angel, you worry too much. We do not have their citizenship and they have no right to arrest us. We came here as citizens of France. Nevertheless you are right, even in Germany we felt more secure. Listen, Marie, perhaps the Soviet authorities have another understanding of ethics and diplomacy."
At that moment, Ganja brought their supper. Maria was so exhausted and hungry that she could not help waiting for food and rest. They sat at the porch table, eating bread and boiled potatoes. Ganja brought some goat's milk, and Alexander gave his portion of milk to his wife.
"Ganja, where is my Grandpa?"
"I do not know for sure, but people meet him in the woods."
"Where did they take the boys? Is Jenny together with them? Do they have the opportunity to see and protect her?"
Maria wanted to know everything about her family.
"I do not think so, Pannochka Maria. They took the boys the next day after they killed your father. Jenny was with me for two more months."
"How did they kill Papa?"
It was so difficult for Maria to comprehend that the civilized people, who were sitting at in her house, had killed her father and could do the same to her husband and her.
Ganja made her conclusion, "They are here for torture and execution. They cannot live without it. People know everything about them: they arrest people, make up their own stories, and execute without true reason for it."
"Why did they kill Papa? What did poor Papa do to them?"
"Nobody knows. They just entered the house, pulled him out, and shot him on this porch. Later I heard that they had learned about the German burgomaster that he operated on and saved. You know, Pannochka Maria, they killed many nice people. They killed our priest Bogdan and his sons in the church during an evening service. They insulted his daughter and beat his wife to death when she was trying to protect her daughter from being raped. The priest's wife passed away on the second day."
Ganja crossed herself and continued.
"They also murdered the mother of Pan (Mr. - Ukr.) Gachevsky. Do you remember the owner of the sugar factory? Thank God that both of his sons and he stayed in Czechoslovakia during that time. They left for Prague for the funeral of old Pan Gachevsky and never came back.
Pannochka Maria, it is very bad that you are here, especially in your condition."
Ganja looked at Maria with love and pity. Maria sent the old woman back home.
"Pray for us, Ganja. Pray for us, please!"
It was chilly outside, but Maria was afraid to step inside the house.
"They want to separate me from Alex. Why?"
Maria could not get rid of that terrifying thought.
Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
Chapter ThreeAlexander and Maria sat side by side on the porch. Both of them felt danger, and they could not understand what scenario the people inside were writing for them. The Kurbatovs thought,
"We did not do any harm to anyone in this country. So they should not do any harm to us."
Maria was grateful to God that she did not mention in her papers her work at the Linden hospital during the war. Did she want to work there? Definitely not, but the life threatening circumstances forced her to be there. If they knew, nobody would allow them to sit on the porch. By this time, they could execute both Alexander and her.
Maria tried to recollect a strange conversation of two high-ranking officers in the train restaurant. After World War II, Stalin instructed NKVD to consider people who were deported by Nazis for forceful labor in Germany and those who were captured and worked in German concentration or labor camps - traitors of the Motherland. NKVD was responsible for deporting those people from Germany directly to Siberia's labor camps. Maria sat with her back to the officer that was making new instructions to another colonel. She heard everything well. It was hard to believe in cruelty of the new law, and that was why Alexander was sure that she misunderstood something.
Excerpted from GOD'S MIRACLES IN LIVES OF REGULAR PEOPLE by Angelic Tarasio Copyright © 2009 by Angelic Tarasio. Excerpted by permission.
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